CANASTOTA, NY — When a wine is made entirely from the grapes in its own vineyards, it’s sometimes called “estate grown.”
Does that work for beer?
If so, a rare “estate grown” beer is about to debut in Syracuse. It comes from neighboring Madison County, and the Erie Canal Brewing Co. of Canastota.
In this case, Erie Canal’s Muleskinner Ale is made entirely from barley and hops grown on a farm belonging to brewery co-owner Sam Lanzafame. The farm is off Route 5 in the town of Sullivan; the brewery is about 15 minutes away in Canastota.
“We like to say this beer is grown in Madison County,” Lanzafame said. “It’s vertically integrated, from start to finish.”
Starting this week, Erie Canal’s Muleskinner Ale and its two other beers (not entirely made with homegrown ingredients) are being distributed — draft only — to bars and restaurants in Onondaga County. Clark’s Ale House and JRyan’s Pub downtown will be among the first accounts to serve them, according to distributor TJ Sheehan.
It’s becoming more and more and more common to see New York beers made with in-state hops (the spice of beer). Barley — the grain that is the base of beer — is a more scarce ingredient here.
But the use of New York-grow beer ingredients is rising, partly because of incentives built into New York’s farm brewery law, passed in 2012. But in volume of production, New York still trails the Pacific Northwest for hops and the Midwest and Canada for barley by a wide margin.
Lanzafame and his partner, Jason Tedford, started Erie Canal Brewing in 2013. The brewery is located in an industrial building at 135 James St. (it’s across from ZEM’s ice cream). Until now, its been distributed primarily in places like Oneida, Herkimer, Old Forge and Chenango County
As part of the ramp up to distribution in Onondaga County, Lanzafame and Tedford hired brewer David Cannizzaro, who is helping it transform from a 1-barrel batch brewery to a 7-barrel batch. One barrel is 31 gallons. For a comparison, the brewhouse at Empire Brewing Co.’s Armory Square brewpub is 7 barrels.
Tedford had been the primary brewer before Cannizzaro was hired, and he helped Erie produce these three beers:
• Muleskinner Pale Ale, a relatively low alcohol (4.5 percent), easy-to-drink brew.
• Locktender India Pale Ale (IPA). It’s 6.5 percent alcohol, with a more pronounced hop character.
• Amber Waves of Grain., This beer, 5 percent alcohol, is darker than the other two with a caramel and chocolate malt character. It’s made in conjunction with Clear Path for Veterans, a veterans services agency in Chittenango.
ON THE FARM
Sam Lanzafame calls his farm Botte Piena, which is Italian for “full bottle.” He grows many things here, from cold-hardy Marquette wine grapes to San Marzano tomatoes in his kitchen garden.
He has a hop yard with 900 bines — bines are to hops what vines are to grapes. They are trained to grow up polls and onto to wire trellises strung between them.
All of Lanazfame’s hops are Cascade, which are one of the premier hops found in classic “West Coast” pale ales and IPAs. Cascade are disease resistant and grow wel lin New York, he said.
The barley field grows a variety called 2-row Pinnacle, prized by brewers. He has about 40 acres. By early July, the field of waving grain turns from green to gold.
“It’s a beautiful sight,” said Lanzafame, who can look down into the valleys of hops and barley from his home.